Nightime Car Interior

Hello folks -

I've got a shoot coming up that I'm locked into a poor-man's process situation. Nightime car interior. I know the T-Bar light spinning over the windshield gag and the pair of lights sliding side to side behind the car - even had someone tell me once about laying a lamp down by the side of the car facing straight up and having two grips throw a baseball through the light to fake something going past the car... Also had Matty Libatique suggest using a black silk in the back window - that works wonders.

I searched the CML archives already and read what little I found there, but haven't found that brilliant nugget yet.

Any other brilliant ideas? Tips? Things to watch out for? Anything you all could offer would be greatly appreciated.

I am NOT a fan of poor-man's process and would rather approach it with some good tools in my bag then go in with my pants around my proverbial ankles...

Many thanks.

Jay Holben
Director/Director of Photography
Los Angeles, CA

>Any other brilliant ideas? Tips? Things to watch out for? Anything you all >could offer would be greatly appreciated.

I remember reading an article about "Night on Earth," shot by one of my favourite DP's (Frederick Elmes), and I believe it said he surrounded the car with foam core and panned lights across them. That appeals to me greatly and I hope to try it some day. Instead of moving actual lights past the car you can simply pan them, and instead of getting a lot of specular hits going through frame you end up with a lot of moving soft shadows. That's not strictly what happens at night, since night exteriors are mostly lit by specular sources, but the contrast between the sources is so low that they do kind of blend together into a kind of soft pastiche.

He also had a 2k zip light on a hydraulic lift that would raise up in front of the car to simulate street lights. When it reached the top of its move an electrician would turn it off and reset it for the next move.

Someone on CML recently pointed out to me that a great way to throw backgrounds out of focus is to shoot through Hampshire frost. You might put some of that on your back window and see what happens.

If anyone else has any better ideas, or if you'd like to correct my use of the word "pastiche", please chime in.

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"

Hi Jay,

There are of course, much more experienced people on this list to give advice on your question, but why not check out these links for inspiration :

The best thing is the feeling of satisfaction of improvising something, even drawing from other people's experience and adding your own, plus the crew collaborating to come up with a good take...

I'm sure some gaffers will add a lot of ideas to the post

Have a great shoot,

John F. Babl

Art Adams wrote :

>the contrast between the sources is so low that they do kind of blend >together into a kind of soft pastiche.

Sticking with the French theme, how about, "mélange" ?

(I can see why you gravitate to the misuse of the word "pastiche" in this instance - I always find myself wanting to use the word "vacillate" to mean, 'easing the passage of'. *Quite*, *quite* wrong I know )

As for PMP, shooting hand-held even if the shot is essentially static (even if the camera is actually outside the car looking through an open window) helps. Adding a bit of intermittent 'pitch and roll' to mimic the movement of the car and bumps on the road looks pretty convincing (though you'll feel a bit silly if you're operating). Not a good idea if the shot is meant to be a hard mounted to the car looking through the front windshield though.

The 12V KinoFlo car kit has been a life saver on many a 'live' car night interior. My preferred use is not as the dreaded 'glowing dashboard' but gelling the tubes up to match the colour of the predominant street lighting, taping the bulbs to the inside of the car roof to create an ambient (approx 2 stops below key) light and riding the dimmers up and down in time to sweeps of passing streetlights. Can't see why something similar wouldn't work for a process shot. Taping white sheets to every surface out of frame (even draped over the talents knees) helps get the most out of sweeping light sources - and your bounce fill level automatically matches the keys movement.

Finally, it's really worth going out in a car at night and shooting some CU's & mids of the driver/passengers with a little DV camera (with the gain whacked right up obv') and then analysing the play of available light back home. I've done it and as an exercise it can be very illumi........I'll stop right there!

Tom Townend,

On a feature last summer we came up with a neat way to simulate car headlights in the rear windshield. The grips mounted two Maglites onto a 20" C-stand arm. Then an electric covered himself in duvetyn and held the rig in place behind the car. He bounced up and down gently to simulate the car moving and at an indicated moment he turned right and walked away to simulate the following car making a right turn.

The Maglites worked great and really made it look like the following car was off in the distance. We just had to make sure that the malate’s batteries had equal power in them. We used more traditional poor mans process techniques to complete the lighting scheme (a few fresnels rotating at different speeds, grips rocking the car slightly) and the scene came out great.

Alex Markle
Los Angeles

One of the more convincing ones I've done was to mount a small light on a jib-arm, pointed nearly straight down, and crane it over the car, to simulate the car driving under streetlights.

Turn it off, swing it back, turn it on, do it again.


Phil Badger,
Gaffer, LA

>On a feature last summer we came up with a neat way to simulate car >headlights in the rear windshield. The grips mounted two Maglites >onto a 20" C-stand arm.

I was going to suggest the MagLite trick. Set them on a mag liner and move it around- move off frame and back again. Just a little effect like this can totally fool the eye.

Ed Myers, Atlanta

> The grips mounted two Maglites onto a 20" C-stand arm.

Speaking about Maglights...

A number of years ago I was shooting a TV movie with Sophia Loren. It was a very tight schedule (of course). One night, on location, the producer and the production manager sprang a poormans shot on us that we were going to do much later inside a studio. We had to improvise the whole thing. It was a shot of Sophia in the back seat in-between two men and two others in the front seat.

I was pulling tricks out of my a... to do it right. One thing that always helps is to work with the longest lens you can get a way with. I was on about a 150 or even a little longer. And I had my crew running around all over the place with moving lights and gags.

The producer came over to me and asked how I was doing and did I need anything. I had a great idea to get back and help the shot at the same time. I told him that I was out of crew and would he and the UPM mind helping. Of course they said they would help.

So I took two baseball caps and taped four Maglights each to the hats, two on either side. There were two Maglights pointing forward that were white and there were two pointing back that had red gel on them. I put them on the producer and told them to run behind the car going away from the vehicle and then back again as fast as they could to simulate headlights and taillights.

They did it gladly. You can't imagine how silly these two men looked. The crew were all falling about. The really funny thing is that we were on such a long lens that it actually worked. To this day I can't look at a MagLite and not laugh.

Steven Poster ASC

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